BAKKERUD HITS HIS STRIDE F

On a venue that has been kind to him, Ford man scores. By Hal Ridge

Motor Sport News - - World Rallycross - RE­SULTS Fi­a­world Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship, round 6/12 When: July 2/3 Where: Hol­jes, Swe­den Pho­tos: fi­a­worl­dral­ly­cross.com

ol­low­ing two suc­ces­sive cham­pi­onship ti­tles in the European ral­ly­cross Su­per1600 cat­e­gory in 2011 and 2012, Nor­way’s An­dreas Bakkerud moved to the high­est level of the sport in 2013, Su­per­car.

Driv­ing for Liam Do­ran’s team, Bakkerud had a tough start to the year, but scored an em­pathic first vic­tory at the Swedish round of the cham­pi­onship at Hol­jes, which turned his year around and wasn’t in­signif­i­cant in the con­tin­u­a­tion of his ca­reer.

Bakkerud has never failed to fin­ish on the podium at Hol­jes since, in­clud­ing both run­nings of World RX rounds on the cir­cuit clos­est to his home in Ber­gen, Nor­way.

Things were dif­fer­ent for Bakkerud head­ing into the Swedish event in 2016 than they had been in 2013. Now driv­ing for Ken Block’s Hooni­gan Rac­ing Di­vi­sion out­fit with its M-sport-de­vel­oped Ford Fo­cus RS RX, Bakkerud had dom­i­nated the pre­vi­ous round of the se­ries at Hell in Nor­way.

But, when he ex­ited the driver’s door of his stricken Fo­cus last Satur­day morn­ing in Swe­den, with two punc­tures and col­lapsed front-suspension that denied him fin­ish­ing Q1 within me­tres of the fin­ish line, Bakkerud must have felt a long way from the top step of the ros­trum. The open­ing day and the first qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion claimed three scalps, in­clud­ing Bakkerud.

Cham­pi­onship leader Mat­tias Ek­strom re­tired with a fly-by-wire throt­tle is­sue and Pet­ter Sol­berg crashed out af­ter hit­ting the rear of Davy Jean­ney’s Peu­geot 208 when at­tempt­ing to take the joker lap. All three did re­cover to make the semi-fi­nals, while Volk­swa­gen RX Swe­den driver Jo­han Kristof­fers­son was consistent in both the wet and dry­ing con­di­tions to top the In­ter­me­di­ate Clas­si­fi­ca­tion, with Bakkerud sec­ond, Sol­berg third and Se­bastien Loeb fourth, the French driver hav­ing set the fastest time in Q1 only to be ham­pered by a punc­ture in both Q2 and Q4.

In semi-fi­nal one Bakkerud made the best start and held off Loeb through­out the race. In the sec­ond semi-fi­nal, Loeb’s team-mate Timmy Hansen made a bril­liant start to lead on lap one, while be­hind Sol­berg chal­lenged pole man Kristof­fers­son for sec­ond. Ek­strom had taken his joker on lap one and, when Sol­berg took his ex­tra route, he came out onto the main cir­cuit be­hind his ti­tle-rival and missed out on a place in the fi­nal. Sol­berg not mak­ing it to the main event, with­out prob­lems hav­ing in­ter­vened, is un­prece­dented in World RX.

At the start of the fi­nal it was again Hansen who made the best start, while Bakkerud took his joker lap. Loeb fol­lowed Hansen with An­ton Mark­lund and Ek­strom close be­hind, Mark­lund climb­ing to sec­ond at the end of the lap when Hansen made a mis­take in the fi­nal cor­ner af­ter the cir­cuit’s huge jump and slowed Loeb.

Ek­strom took his joker on lap two while Mark­lund took his com­pul­sory ex­tra-route on lap four. Mean­while, Bakkerud and Kristof­fers­son had carved into the lead of the top trio and when Hansen and Loeb took their jok­ers on the fi­nal lap, it was Bakkerud who emerged in front of both.

Twelve months ago, the same sce­nario had hap­pened on the last lap of the fi­nal and Hansen made a ro­bust move in the very last cor­ner on Ek­strom to claim vic­tory on track be­fore be­ing handed a one-place grid penalty by the stew­ards for the in­ci­dent. Bakkerud was wise to the po­ten­tial of Hansen try­ing the same move twice and cov­ered the in­side line into the fi­nal cor­ner to claim his sec­ond vic­tory in suc­ces­sion.

In 2013, vic­tory at Hol­jes turned Bakkerud’s sea­son around, and in 2016, vic­tory at the same venue proved that his home win in Hell was no fluke and that Bakkerud is a se­ri­ous ti­tle con­tender if ei­ther Ek­strom or Sol­berg con­tinue to drop points.

“It was a re­ally hard fi­nal,” said Bakkerud, who has moved up to third in the stand­ings. “I just missed the start and went to the joker and was chas­ing, chas­ing, chas­ing. I saw Timmy went for the joker and I just got ahead, and on the last lap I thought ‘I’m not go­ing to re­lax.’”

Iron­i­cally, Hansen was still in­volved in fi­nal-cor­ner drama as the hand­brake on his Peu­geot 208 locked on, al­low­ing Loeb to just cross the line ahead of his team-mate.

Mark­lund fin­ished fourth with a mis­fir­ing en­gine, his team-mate Kristof­fers­son was ruled out of a podium fin­ish by a punc­ture while chas­ing Bakkerud. Ek­strom re­tired mid-race with a re­oc­cur­rence of his Q1 elec­tronic throt­tle body prob­lem. Bri­tish driver Liam Do­ran set a best time of ninth in the four qual­i­fy­ing races, the JRM Rac­ing team still con­tin­u­ing to de­velop the newly im­ple­mented two-litre en­gine and Do­ran didn’t make the semi-fi­nals. ■

Bakkerud (l) took a sec­ond straight win

Loeb, Bakkerud and Hansen (r)

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